Friday, April 4, 2008

A Moment To Think

At this point I’ve been blogging about the United States Military Academy for a few weeks, and since I’ve reached the “halfish” point in this process, I think it’s time for some reflection. I began this blog with very little understanding regarding the “whys” of West Point. Since that point, I’ve had the opportunity to ask questions and do research about the Academy. What have I learned? Well, to begin with, West Point is one tough place. During the first summer there, new cadets are exposed to a lifestyle that is strict, rigorous, and stressful. They emerge from Cadet Basic Training as official cadets with a completely new lifestyle. The intensity continues throughout the academic year as coursework is added to the physical and military academics of their lives. Listening to the account of the cadet to whom I spoke, I felt a deeper level of respect for the men and women who join the military. When I began this process, I did already respect servicemen and women, but throughout my blogs this respect has been built upon and deepened. As Americans, I think that it is important to respect the military, regardless of what our political, religious, or cultural views may be. Examining my mindset now, I realize that I didn’t respect our armed forces as much as I should have. I thought I did, but it’s very difficult to respect without understanding. Many people disrespect the military because they disagree with whatever armed conflict is going on. However, it’s not the Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force that makes the decision to fight or go overseas. It’s extremely hard to remember this, especially when we are constantly exposed to images of military men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq. We can’t help but make an association. We see an American serviceman in an Iraqi village, and forget that it was our politicians who put him there, not other soldiers. I readily admit that in the past I have fallen victim to this misconception along with everyone else. However, since doing this blog I have learned to distinguish between the military and politics, and therefore developed a deeper level of respect and support for those who are working hard for this nation.

1 comment:

Mike Figliuolo said...

Thanks for digging in to understand my alma mater. It's a special place and it's critical to understand the differentiation between people and policy (as you're starting to suss out in your reflections). West Point doesn't change you - it exposes who you really are. You learn amazing things about yourself and the people around you. I've been fortunate to have the pleasure of interacting with cadets again of late (I spent a week there in October at the National Conference on Ethics in America) and was thoroughly impressed with the qualities these folks possess. It makes me proud to be part of that tradition.

As an aside, another important aspect of the Academy that few understand is it is hilarious and absurd. Being locked down on the frozen Hudson for months on end teaches you to find laughter in everything. For a perspective on that, check out "The Big Blog of West Point Hell" at It's a chronicle of three years of my class' experiences there written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Hopefully it will provide a window into the lighter side of West Point.